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January 4, 2014

Racing bloodlines: Famed stallion continues to earn accolades

Ada — Tributes to the legendary stallion Ladybugs Moon are scattered throughout the home of his owner, Ada resident Marvin Barnes.

Newspaper clippings about Ladybugs Moon’s career are piled on Barnes’ coffee table, along with plaques honoring the stallion and his mother, the well-known broodmare FL Ladybug. A painting of FL Ladybug adorns a wall in another room.

Ladybugs Moon made his mark on quarter horse racing in the late 1960s, when he narrowly missed winning the Ruidoso Triple Crown in Ruidoso, N.M. He is best known for siring top race and barrel racing horses whose descendants are making their own mark.

Ladybugs Moon died in 1995, but his fame lives on. His career earned him a spot in the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in March 2013, and he will be inducted into the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Hall of Fame later this month.

Barnes, 93, said he was excited about his stallion’s latest honor.

“It thrilled me,” he said in a Dec. 30 interview. “Three years ago, they put me and my wife in the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in Tulsa, and now they’re putting him in.”

Ladybugs Moon will be joining his mother, FL Ladybug, who has become famous as a producer of top-notch racehorses, in the state and national Halls of Fame.

FL Ladybug was inducted into the national Hall of Fame in 1999. Ten years later, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame along with Barnes and his wife, Lela.

Ladybugs Moon was born in June 1966, the son of Top Moon and FL Ladybug. His half sister, Top Ladybug, was the champion 2-year-old filly of 1966 and the heaviest favorite in All American Futurity history at 1 to 9 odds.

Barnes said he originally trained Ladybugs Moon as a roping horse, but he soon realized that the stallion belonged on the racetrack instead.

“He was just so fast,” Barnes said. “Everywhere I’d take him, he’d outrun them when I started training him.”

Ladybugs Moon made his mark on quarter-horse racing in 1968, when he won the Kansas Futurity, the first leg of the Ruidoso Downs triple crown, according to the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. The stallion finished second in the second and third legs — the Rainbow Futurity and the All American Futurity — that year and missed winning the Triple Crown by less than a neck.

The stallion finished third in the Oklahoma Futurity in 1968, then returned to the track the following year to win the Rainbow Derby at Ruidoso Downs. He retired at the end of his sophomore season with a 23-11-5-3 record and $191,536 in winnings.

Following Ladybugs Moon’s retirement, the Barneses needed a place to stand their top stallion. They founded the Ladybug Stallion Station farm in Madill in 1970 and sought assistance from Lela’s brother, A.F. “Sonny” Stanley, and his sons Stan, Steve and Fred.

Ladybug Stallion Station soon gained a reputation for getting mares in foal and breeding them to Ladybugs Moon, according to the farm’s website. The stallion sired the Blue Ribbon Futurity winner Jerry’s Bug in his first crop, then went on to become a leading sire of winning horses.

The Ladybugs line continued to make its mark in industry in 1975, when Bug’s Alive — a granddaughter of Ladybugs Moon’s mother, FL Ladybug — won the All American Futurity, according to the website.

In 1976, Marvin Barnes sold Ladybugs Moon to businessman George Middleton of St. Louis for about $1.2 million. About two years later, Barnes bought Ladybugs Moon from Middleton and took the stallion to Ladybug Stallion Station.

Also in the late 1970s, the Barneses sold the farm to A.F. Stanley.

By 1980, Ladybugs Moon was on his way to becoming one of the industry’s most prolific broodmare sires, according to the website.

In 1982, the Barneses returned to the winner’s circle at the All-American Futurity with a 2-year-old colt, Mr. Master Bug. Mr. Master Bug and the second-place finisher, Miss Squaw Hand, were both descendants of Ladybug’s Moon.

The Ladybug bloodline continues to dominate the industry, due in part to a foal-sharing agreement between A.F. Stanley and B.F. Phillips Jr. One of Sonny’s foundation mares, a granddaughter of Ladybugs Moon named First Prize Rose, was bred to a stallion named Dash for Cash.

Their offspring, a colt named First Down Dash, went on to win 13 of 15 starts and was named world champion in 1987 while earning more than $857,000. He began his breeding career in 1988 and has become the industry’s most prolific sire.

Ladybugs Moon’s influence on the industry is still felt today, as all 12 finalists in the 2013 Champion of Champions race were descendants of his, said Barnes’ nephew, Fred Stanley. He said the studs dominating the industry today —including seven of the top sires and eight of the top 10 freshman sires — wouldn’t exist without Ladybugs Moon.

“Our whole family has been very blessed to have this bloodline,” he said. “This bloodline has made a lot of people in the industry a lot of money.”

Barnes said Ladybugs Moon and his descendants owe their success to an earlier ancestor — the stallion’s mother, FL Ladybug.

“FL Ladybug — the mother — is why they’re all still going,”  he said. “As long as any of us live, I don’t think there will ever be another mare even close to FL Ladybug.”

Reach Eric Swanson at adanewsreporter@cableone.net.

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